Fun with Folders

We’ve been having a great time getting re-acquainted with folders, figuring out how best to maximize their special features, comparing the strengths and weaknesses between competing models, and figuring out how to fit them into our routine. As I mentioned in a recent post, we purchased a pair of Bromptons for those times when we need to take the bikes in the car or on a train or bus that doesn’t have accommodations for full-sized bikes. It was a bit of a no-brainer as far as the Bromptons were concerned; I previously owned a Brompton and had already “drank the Kool-Aid” so to speak. It’s been a load of fun though, comparing our little M3Ls to the tricked out belt drive Dahon Mu XL Sport that Thor loaned us, as well as evaluating these bikes in the context of our experiences earlier in the year with the now defunct Jango Flik.

As part of this ongoing exercise, I thought it would be fun to merge a pair of photos of the aforementioned Brompton and Dahon. As you can see, the riding positions are nearly identical, even though the Dahon uses larger 20″ wheels compared to the Brommie’s petite 16″ wheels. The Dahon is lighter, but the famous Brompton fold is amazingly compact (the saddle on the Brompton actually retracts further than shown in the photo).

What we’re learning through all of this is that, like with full-sized bikes, each folder is different and has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Some ride more like big bikes, others are lightweight for easy carrying, and yet others fold into a neat and tidy package. As always, the trick is to identify the bike that best fits your unique priorities and needs.

15 Responses to “Fun with Folders”

  • Tiago Salgado says:

    I use a Dahon for my daily commute in Lisbon, and I’ve been searching for some reviews about panniers that could be mounted to folding bikes. And I figured that there’s few information regarding panniers and folding bikes.

    Here’s an idea: why don’t you make an article about it? I recently bought the Arclite Rear Rack (probably not the best one to use with rear panniers), and it was great that someone with the knowledge and connections could give some attention to this.

    I wanted to buy the “Bug” pannier from Arkel (pannier/bakcpack is what I’m looking for), but the investment is huge if I receive it (I have to order it from UK) and figure that I can’t use it. Here in Portugal I can’t find a place with panniers and the only rear rack that I’ve found was the one from Dahon (the travel rack wasn’t available), and in Lisbon there are still few people with folding bikes.

    As for my Dahon, I find it very compact, and I never had problems in the subway, even in rush hours. I easily place it near the train door, people look at it as they never saw such a thing (and probably they didn’t!), and the weight is ideal to climb the subway stairs. And being a city that isn’t used to bikes, I can’t leave it in the street at night, a folding bike is the right bike to store at home. Dahon and Brompton aren’t really cheap, but for the Dahon Mu P8, it’s a great investment. Fast, reliable, easy to fold and carry.

    Cheers!

  • Tim says:

    Alan-

    This is another great job on a merged photo. I really liked this photo and the merged photo from the bike sizing post. It really helps compare bikes.

    Tim

  • Ted says:

    Great post! I’m a Dahon owner with Brompton envy. This actually helped relieve my Brompton envy a bit. My case of Brompton envy began about 10 years ago when on a business trip in The Netherlands. I got my first Dahon a few years later, and have always felt that maybe I was settling for less.

    My Dahon became an essential part of my car-free life in Washington DC. You can’t take a full-sized bike on the Metro during peak hours.

    I’m now working in the car-free industry with Bike Shop Hub, in Flagstaff AZ (home of the Schultz Fire) . You’ll find me rambling on in our various blogs.

    The Dahon doesn’t come in quite as handy here in the mountains, but I’m not getting rid of it any time soon.

  • jamesmallon says:

    What are 16″ wheels like to ride? My suspicion is they blow. I don’t even like 26″.

  • Dane says:

    Alan,

    I think the Kojaks on the Dahon make for an unfair advantage compared to the Marathons on the Brompton. I just switched to Kojaks from Marathons on my Brompton. What a difference, so much easier rolling.

    Dane

  • Alan says:

    @jamesmallon

    “What are 16″ wheels like to ride?”

    They’re an acquired taste; I’m comfortable and familiar with small wheels from my experience with recumbents. Having a bit of rear suspension like the Brompton helps. The Moultons are luxuriously smooth with their refined front and rear suspension.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Dane

    Can’t run Kojaks around here… :-)

  • Thor says:

    Alan says:

    @Dane

    Can’t run Kojaks around here… :-)
    ————————————————————————–

    sure…………
    they are so light ….. combined with a light bike and some body english they just float over those thorns …. without ever touching them … :-)

    :-)
    Thor

  • Ed L. says:

    Alan,

    Knock it off! Every time I get myself convinced I do not need a folder, you put up a post like this. When I (inevitably) pull the trigger, I am going to give my wife your phone number to explain the charge to the bank account. ;)

  • Ted says:

    @Ed But you do need a folder. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t have one. Although, I’d feel less “special” if everyone did. It was a reliable conversation starter when carried it on the DC Metro.

  • Justin Lee Miller says:

    I have a Dahon with 20″ wheels that I travel with for work. I’ve had it a few months now and it works ok. I kind of wish I had gone with the Brompton. It’s more expensive but it comes standard with many of the things you really need anyway, like reflective Schwalbe tires and decent lights. And I think a smaller, faster fold is key to functionality. I’m going to test drive some Bromptons and maybe my Dahon will end up on craigslist soon.

    As for riding on the tiny wheels, it does take some getting used to. And no, it doesn’t begin to compare with my Dutch bike. But it’s the most useful tool I’ve ever had. It’s great for the train, hotels, running errands, etc. Ride it to the rental car place, throw it in the trunk. Meet friends and change plans, throw it in their trunk and go, no worries. Just plain useful.

  • brett says:

    Howdy, just wondering if you or anyone had had a chance to compare a Strida to the brompton and dahon. which are easier to fold and unfold? which are easier to ride?
    Living on a ground floor building in Portland (which has bike racks galore and allows regular bikes on the streetcar, train and bus), I’m not really sure I need a folder, but they are intriguing, and our wonderful Clever Cycles shop just had a Brompton ride with high tea. I haven’t yet thought of a time when I needed a folder instead of my dutch bike, though.

  • brett says:

    oh and maybe add a Tikit to the comparison?

  • Alan says:

    @brett

    If anyone has a Tikit or a Strida to loan me, I’d b happy to throw them in the mix… :-)

  • kanishka says:

    there is a ridiculous amount of information in group discussion archives and a good number of people willing to answer your questions about bromptons on the brompton yahoo group.

    panniers and folders, much has been written, though not aggregated. usually specialized to each folding bike model, since they often sell specialized mounting systems. i’m trying to expand, aggregate the information on panniers, racks for the swift folder.

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?656898-backpack-panniers-other-luggage-in-general-for-swift

    i wrote a few messages on the brompton group about baggage for it. the dahon forums should have lots on what combinations people have tried. teh bike friday yak forums have a good bit of information for tikit and pocket *’s. also, the bike friday store has a good listing of bags compatible with its folding bike racks. the brompton company website has a good overview of its bags and racks. thorusa and klickfix.de have a good selection of dahon and klickfix/generic folding bike compatible panniers/bags and mounts

    i just recently switched from 1 year with a brompton to swift folder (custom with alfine 8). we’ll see how that goes. in a car obsessed country like the US, i think folders focused on car trunks are more important than less car-centric needs of european folk.

    —–

    a question though, i am going through brompton withdrawal. i used to be able to put my brompton behind my passenger seat of my civic coupe. now i think its quickiest to just use a car rack for the swift ):. i think if i had narrower handlebars (possibly the bromptons m-bar?), i might be able to put the quick folded version of swift fold into my civic coupe. just not sure if it makes any sense to get a brompton m-bar and install it on swift? i’m also probably going to ditch my folding pedals for the brompton folding pedals later. the other thing i miss is the klickfix mounted on riser with a freepack backpack, which moves when you steer, makes the steering really bad, so i might convince someone to modify a brompton front carrier block to fit the front of the swift.

 
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